Assad willing to meet Erdogan on condition Turkey withdraws from Syria

A ministerial meeting between Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iran has been postponed, a Turkish Foreign Ministry source said

President Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. AFP / Reuters
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Syrian President Bashar Al Assad told Russian RIA-Novosti news agency that talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are incumbent on Turkey's full withdrawal from Syria.

Mr Al Assad spoke to the agency during a visit to the Russian capital Moscow, which began on Wednesday.

"[Any meeting] is linked to our reaching the point when Turkey is ready — fully and without any uncertainty — for a complete withdrawal from Syrian territory," Mr Assad told Ria-Novosti.

"This is the only way in which my meeting with Erdogan could take place."

Turkey and Syria each accuse the other of supporting terrorists that threaten cross border security.

Last year, Mr Erdogan signalled that he was ready to meet his Syrian counterpart in a trilateral summit with Russia. Russia has been Syria's biggest backer during the 12-year conflict.

An unnamed Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters that a ministerial meeting between Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran had been postponed for "technical reasons". The meeting was scheduled to take place on March 15 and 16, Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported on Monday.

Rapprochement between Syria and Turkey angered many of the four million Syrian refugees relying on Turkey to support them against the Al Assad regime.

Turkey has asked Russia for assistance in creating a "buffer zone" along its border that would clear it of Kurdish militias that Turkey categorises as terrorists.

Ankara has accused the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of working with the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to commit terrorist attacks in Turkey, including a November 13 bombing in Istanbul that killed six people.

Both groups deny any role in the attack, which led to a Turkish air campaign against their positions in Syria and northern Iraq, killing at least 100 people, mostly militia fighters. Syria has condemned the Turkish moves, which it says are a breach of Syria's sovereignty.

Updated: March 16, 2023, 10:45 AM